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How to Get Better Sleep and Improve Your Athletic Performance

Many athletes focus their efforts on their training and sports nutrition strategies to improve their performance. However, one crucial factor that’s often overlooked is the profound impact of sleep on athletic performance. Sleep isn’t just a time for rest; it's a critical component of training, recovery, cognitive function and overall health. Now, with the prominence of wearable technology, it’s easier than ever to record and analyze data collected during sleep, bringing the impact of sleep to the forefront of many athletes’ routines.

Alarmingly, about 65% of elite and other high-performing athletes will experience poor sleep quality, with many struggling to get the rest they need to fully recover from the physical demands of their sport. This is particularly concerning given the increased need for recovery in athletes, who frequently experience high levels of stress, fatigue and physical strain, highlighting the importance of addressing sleep issues and implementing tactics for better quality sleep.

Prioritizing and personalizing your sleep routine is a crucial step in achieving your athletic goals, so to help you improve your sleep quality, this article explores:

  • Why sleep is important for athletes
  • The benefits of quality sleep on performance and recovery
  • Practical tactics for improving sleep quality
  • Key takeaways about sleep to keep in mind as you train


Why Sleep is Important for Athletes

Sleep is fundamental to athletic performance, and athletes often face unique challenges that disrupt sleep, such as rigorous training schedules, travel and the psychological stresses of competition. These factors can lead to insufficient sleep, poor sleep quality, daytime tiredness and even sleep disorders like insomnia. The impact of these sleep disturbances extends beyond fatigue, negatively impacting physical and mental performance, recovery and injury risk, medical and mental health, and various other factors critical for peak performance.

Getting high-quality sleep comes with a host of benefits to your athletic performance, such as:

  • Improved performance and recovery: Sleep promotes muscle repair, growth, and efficiently replenishes your energy stores, facilitating quicker recovery from intense training and competition by improving the integrity of muscle and connective tissues and reducing inflammation.
  • Enhanced cognitive function: Getting enough sleep plays a pivotal role in your cognitive function. Getting adequate sleep sharpens your focus and enhances your decision-making abilities. This mental acuity is indispensable in competitive environments, where split-second decisions and concentration are key
  • Reduced injury risk: Quality sleep supports neuromuscular coordination, balance and reaction time, which contribute to a reduced risk of injuries and ensure you can make precise, calculated movements while training and competing.
  • Stronger mental health: Quality sleep fosters resilience and emotional well-being by regulating your stress levels, helping you manage the psychological demands of your sport, so you can maintain a positive mindset and motivation over the long term. 

These combined benefits underscore the integral role of quality sleep in optimizing your athletic performance, recovery and well-being—but how can you more easily achieve all of these benefits? Read on to learn how. 


Practical Tactics for Improving Sleep Quality

There’s no shortcut to achieving higher quality sleep, but adopting a combination of sleep hygiene practices, dietary considerations and lifestyle changes can help you get there. Here are some practical tactics you can use to improve your sleep quality:

Track Your Sleep with Wearable Technology

Using wearable technology like an Apple Watch, Oura Ring, or devices from Garmin and Whoop to track your sleep can be a game-changer in achieving better sleep quality. Wearables provide an easy way to measure and monitor various sleep metrics such as sleep stages, heart rate variability (HRV), resting heart rate and sleep duration and consistency, and can show you how your sleep changes under stress, after drinking alcohol, when staying up too late and more.

Sleep stages include light, deep, and REM sleep, each crucial for different aspects of recovery and memory consolidation. HRV measures the variation in time between heartbeats, indicating stress levels and cardiovascular health; higher HRV typically signifies better fitness and lower stress. Resting heart rate, the number of heartbeats per minute while resting, can reflect your overall fitness level and you want to aim for a range between 60 and 70 BPM while asleep. Sleep duration and consistency track how long and regularly you sleep, helping you stick to a more consistent routine. Understanding these metrics helps you identify areas for improvement, such as increasing deep sleep or managing stress, enabling you to make informed adjustments that will optimize your sleep habits and enhance your sleep quality.

Establish a Consistent Sleep Schedule

Set a regular sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at similar times every day. This consistency helps regulate your body’s internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up naturally, and ensuring you get enough restorative sleep each night.

Create a Healthy Sleeping Environment

Make your bedroom or sleeping area conducive to sleep by keeping it cool, dark and quiet. You can use blackout curtains to block out light and consider earplugs or a white noise machine to eliminate disruptive sounds. Investing in a comfortable mattress and pillows that work best for your body and sleep style can also significantly improve your sleep quality. As a rule of thumb, your bedroom should only be for things that start with the letter S, like sleep and sickness—it shouldn’t be for browsing social media or binging your favourite series.

Mind Your Diet and Hydration Levels

Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime as they can interfere with your sleep cycle. Despite caffeine’s ability to improve athletic performance, it can keep you up, so you should limit your caffeine intake to the morning. It’s also best to avoid alcohol several hours before bed because even though it can make you fall asleep in large quantities, it can lead to very poor sleep quality and make it harder to wake up in the morning. 

You want to stay well-hydrated throughout the day, but avoid large amounts of water right before bed to prevent frequent wake-ups. Consuming electrolytes and natural sugars, either through whole foods like fruit and vegetables, or a real-food product like Hydra+, will help your body absorb water and hydrate more efficiently, while also allowing you to consume less water close to bedtime. 

If you’re ultra-conscious about eating before bed, you’ll be glad to know that quality sleep keeps the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin at high levels in your body, hence why you don’t get hungry while sleeping. Poor sleep, on the other hand, results in low leptin levels, making it more likely that you’ll end up binging on unhealthy, sugary foods late at night.

However, for the times you can’t help but feel hungry before bed, consider a light, balanced snack that includes protein and complex carbohydrates, such as a bowl of oatmeal or a banana with peanut butter (or another type of nut butter), to avoid the stomach discomfort that can arise from a larger meal. A scoop of Egg White Protein Isolate can do the trick too, creating the feeling of fullness and satisfying your sweet tooth.

Practice Relaxation Techniques

Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises or progressive muscle relaxation to reduce stress and anxiety, making it easier to fall asleep. You can also wind down and improve your sleep quality by reading a book before bed. These practices can help ease physical and mental tension, promoting a more restful state conducive to sleep.

Conversely, while exercise is known to improve sleep quality, if you train in the evening or closer to bedtime, it can take some time for your heart rate to return to resting levels suitable for sleep. An instance such as this makes relaxation techniques before bed particularly useful.

Limit Exposure to Blue Light

Blue light from screens like mobile phones, televisions and computers can disrupt the production of melatonin, a hormone your body produces and uses for regulating sleep, leading to reduced sleep quality and duration. If possible, you should avoid screens at least an hour before bed, and consider using blue light-blocking glasses, apps or device settings that reduce blue light emission if you must use a device before sleep.

Consider Using Sleep-Enhancing Supplements

There are certain supplements thought to promote better sleep, like magnesium and melatonin. Magnesium helps relax your muscles and is important for melatonin production, while melatonin can aid your sleep-wake cycle, which is especially useful for athletes with demanding or irregular schedules.

You can also consider adding calcium HMB to your supplementation routine by using a product like HMB Sport. Despite not directly impacting sleep, HMB reduces soreness from exercise-induced muscle damage, which can make it easier to fall asleep.


Key Takeaways

Sleep is a critical factor in all aspects of your athletic performance, and without it, your efforts to optimize your training and nutrition strategies may be undermined. By prioritizing your sleep routine, you can significantly improve your performance and recovery, reduce your risk of injury and improve your overall well-being—and integrating practical tactics to achieve higher-quality sleep can help you achieve these benefits more easily and effectively. 

Put simply, by making sleep a non-negotiable part of your training routine, you’ll see better results and progress toward your athletic goals faster.


If you learned something new from this article and are curious to know more, head to the Blonyx Blog or our growing list of weekly research summaries where we help you further improve your athletic performance by keeping you up to date on the latest findings from the world of sports nutrition.


— That’s all for now, train hard!


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